Sunshine Hours in British Columbia

Taking every single weather station in the province that has recorded bright hours of sunshine — and adjusting for differences between periods of record — gives the summary at the bottom. Sunshine hours started in the mid-1950s and ended around 2001. A few stations kept recording for another decade or so, but there are no weather stations in BC or Canada today recording sunshine hours.

Note that there is margin of error not shown here so the order is only a best estimate, especially for some of the stations that were in existence for as little as five years.  Even for those that have been around for several decades, there is enough margin of error to not know if (for example) Cranbrook or Victoria (Gonzales Hill) is the sunniest place in the province. It is safe to say that those two weather stations are the top two, but the order is debatable.

In BC, some of the major factors reducing the sunshine hours are valley cloud, fog, and mountains. This is why you find some stations with extremely low sunshine hours in the winter months.

sunshineBC.png

 

 

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How Cold Can it Get in Lumby?

We made it through most of January before winter hit this year, but February made up for lost time with the most dramatic late season turnaround on record.

The entire month remained cold with no warmup until the second week of March, but the extreme lows were less impressive with the official low at the Vernon weather station being -22.7°C. Unofficial backyard readings in the Lumby area reported below -25° in spots.

During the cold snap in February and early March, several people asked me about how cold Lumby can get.

The answer is a bit long, so let’s start off summarizing the weather stations we have available from Environment Canada.

LumbyWS2

Since the late 1800s there have been 17 weather stations recording temperature in the Lumby-Cherryville-Vernon area. Most have been relatively short lived, but the Coldstream Ranch location (the current official reading for Vernon) enjoys continuous records from 1900 to the present.

Lumbyws.png

The official data confirms what locals already know — Lumby can get very cold at night.

This is achieved by very strong temperature inversions that develop under calm conditions and clear nighttime skies. The lack of wind allows cold air to sink and pool in the low, flat valley bottom around Lumby. These conditions put the Village of Lumby almost on  par with Nicklen Lake (on the Aberdeen plateau some 800m higher) as the coldest spot in the area. The highest elevation weather station location at Silver Star does not get these extremely cold nights on account of the geography allowing cold air to slide on down hill past the ski resort, but still ranks as the third coldest weather station on the list.

LUMBYWEATHER

My place on a hillside in Lumby typical has overnight winter temperatures similar to the Vernon weather station in Coldstream, but if I take a drive downtown the temperature drops several degrees. Even more pronounced is a drive out to Whitevale.

As the next graph shows, Lumby is often five degrees colder than Vernon. In fact, the average yearly extreme low temperature in Lumby was six degrees Celsius colder than Vernon (Coldstream Ranch) between 1996 and 2010. During very cold winters this difference tends to be even greater. (I suspect that the Lumby data from the 1960s was a different location given the warmer temperatures relative to Vernon.)

Lumbyws4

Looking back over the past 123 years, 48% of the “winter” extreme lows took place in January, 22% in December, 17% in February, 6.5% in November, 5.7% in March, and 0.8% in October. Yes, the coldest temperature once occurred in October!

LumbyWS5

The number of weather stations in Canada has been in decline since the 1980s, but the decline in the Lumby area didn’t start until mid-1990s. Still, the number of stations have been droping over the past 20 years, going from a high of eight stations to two today. This makes new extreme weather records less likely today than in the past because of less coverage.

It also makes the tracking of climate change almost impossible, especially in terms of precipitation. In our area, only Silver Star and Vernon (Coldstream Ranch) remain. The Silver Star station is intermittent during the summer months and Vernon station is automated, and automated stations are unreliable at recording precipitation. Snowfall is not recorded at all with the automated station.

lumbyws3

Since the weather records near Lumby are fairly spotty, we much extrapolate from nearby stations in Vernon and elsewhere to estimate Lumby’s extreme cold.

Estimates for the extreme temperatures in Lumby can best be derived by analyzing the 119 years of Vernon-Coldstream Ranch data. It’s not an exact science, however, because there are some rare days when the temperature is colder in Vernon than Lumby (for example) so a single station should not be used for this exercise.

Looking at all data within 200 km of Lumby (and indeed, the entire province) reveals that there were two cold spells head and shoulders above the rest. The most recent was the winter of the 1968/69 (the coldest winter in BC history) and the one before that was January of 1950 (the coldest month on record in BC).

The Coldstream Ranch data doesn’t give 1950 justice because the extreme cold seems to have missed that station relative to almost all other stations (still, -35.6°C makes the top 3).

A snapshot of January 1950 shows that this month was the first and last time:

  • Fauquier dropped to -30°C (the -31.7°C reading was 1.5° colder than the second coldest extreme set in December 1968)
  • Armstrong hit -40°C (the -42.2°C low was 2.8° coldest than the next coldest record from January 1943)
  • Westwold hit -45°C (bottoming out at -45.6 — four degrees below than the next coldest day from January 1969)

The winter of 1968/69 was impressively cold from late December to early February, with Vernon dropping to -39°C. A little further south at the Kelowna airport, the temperature dipped to -36°C (no station existed at the airport in 1950).

So how cold was Lumby those years?

If the low lying areas of Lumby tend to be 6 degrees colder than Vernon +/- 4 degrees, we can conservatively estimate a temperature of -45°C in at least one of those years. That would be pushing -50°F. Not bad, eh?

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Maliciousness or Incompetence?

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
~ Hanlon’s razor

When we repeatedly accuse the media of lying, we are often mistaking sloppy fact checking for malice. Otherwise, why would there be so many mistakes in apolitical articles such as ones about the weather? That is not to say there aren’t gross examples of lying (there are), but it’s not as common as political hacks of all stripes make it out to be.

Journalists are generalists, not specialists, so they tend to have knowledge on a much more broad array of topics than the general public, but their grasp of each individual topic is quite shallow. They have just enough knowledge to dangerous, but not enough to be useful.

In line with Hanlon’s razor, this article is one example.

The first error is the misleading title. No one says, “the runner broke a record” when he wasn’t even close to beating the all time record, so why say it about the weather?

To set up the second error, we must understand that there are two existing weather stations in Kelowna — one at the airport (opened in 1968) and one at UBCO (opened in 2012). Since the 1800s Kelowna has seen 20 weather stations in the area come and go with the airport being unique among them all for having much colder nights. The airport sits in a frost hollow where cold air pools at night. This means that the airport station has an average temperature that’s at least a degree colder than the rest of the city — even compared to stations less than 1 km away.

KELOWNA3.png

So when the article states that February 2019 was “-6.5 C colder than normal”, it is wrong. Wrong because it compares the new University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) station to the airport normal. In actual fact, the Kelowna airport was 7.6°C colder than normal in 2019.

Also, it’s wrong to say the temperature is “6.5 C colder than normal” because that’s a double negative, but I won’t get hung up on this fact because we all know what they mean.

Moving on, the news article states that this was the coldest February since 1975, but here again they are comparing the UBCO station with the data from the airport. If they want to properly compare apples to apples, they need to use the airport data from 2019 and compare that to the airport data from 1975.

As the article accurately states, the average temperature in 1975 was -7.8°C, but in 2019, the airport averaged -8.5°C (UBCO was -7.4C). Therefore, 2019 was indeed the coldest month on record at the Kelowna airport (with the first February being 1969).

The article goes on to state that the coldest temperature for the month was -20.2°C, which is again the UBCO figure, but the airport bottomed out at -20.9°C.

Other stations have existed in Kelowna and the rest of the Okanagan valley prior to 1968, and this data shows there that 1936 was much colder than any other year including 2019. Even warmer locations were colder in 1936 than the airport was in 2019.

As Castanet rightly states, 2019 was the second coldest February on record in Penticton [with 1936 being the coldest by a wide margin].

PentictonBC

The statement about Williams Lake and Prince George experiencing their coldest February on record can only be considered accurate if all stations in existence in 1936 are ignored. Because 1936 was so much colder than 2019, it isn’t necessary to compare the exact same location to accurately conclude that 1936 was much colder.

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Shattered Record in Saskatoon?

It’s really interesting to see articles like this exclaiming that Saskatoon SHATTERED a 112 year old record as if this is something that only happens every hundred years or so.

You can see the data in the graph below and decide for yourself whether or not the record was shattered.

sask

The blue line represents the daily record low and the orange line represents the 2019 daily lows.

In actual fact, it is really not that hard to set new records even when you have data that stretches back 112 years.

As of yesterday, we are 38 days into the year, and thus, with 112 years worth of data the odds of setting a record low or high so far is just under 50 percent with the probability of setting just a record low at 29%. The odds of it snowing yesterday or the odds of Donald Trump getting elected president were lower than that.

It is being quite cold, that is for sure, but setting record colds is not really as unusual or unbelievable as the media portrays it to be.

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Is Extreme Cold Caused by Climate Change?

Several articles like this one are making the rounds, claiming that the extreme cold is caused by climate change.

Only a momentary glance at the data shows that this is complete hogwash. The fact that a plethora of supposedly smart scientists shared it makes it no less laughable.

chinesehoax

Climate change causes many things like more floods and heatwaves, I’ve sure, but for this “fact check”, I’m only investigating the claim about it causing extreme cold.

The data does not bare it out anywhere on earth that I can find. It seems to me that there’s a segment of the population that wants to believe that climate change causes EVERYTHING to get worse so badly that they aren’t satisfied with some or most of the things getting worse, so they just make up fairy tales to make it out to be 100% bad.

Or maybe it’s just a lazy way of refuting those who say “look it’s cold outside, so there must not be any global warming.”

In either case, it makes no logical sense whatsoever to claim extremes are increasing at both ends. If you have more extreme heat and more extreme cold, you are saying that the standard deviations are getting larger over time. There’s no evidence for this either, so the only scientifically accurate statement would be that extremes at one end are going up and extremes at the other are going down.

Winnipeg, Manitoba hit -40 degrees yesterday, and this is supposed to be caused by climate change. Okay, let’s graph the number of -40 days since records began in 1872.

Winnipeg-40

No upward tick there, so let’s try another spot.

lethbridge-40

Nothing here in over 20 years.

Let’s try going really cold, like -45C/-49F in Regina (the places above don’t get that cold).

Regina-45.png

Nothing here since the 1950s.

Since this is a BC based site, let’s try a few of spots in BC showing their most extreme cold days.

Victoria-10

Kamloops-30b.png

kelowna-20

penticton-22

Tatlayoko-37.png

And here we see the same sort of trend with the extreme cold all but disappearing after the 1960s — yet, climate change is causing more extreme cold? The level of cognitive dissonance is deafening.

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Warmest December Since 1939

elnino

Going into the winter of 2018/2019, we were expected a mild one given the fact that El Niño was strong, but I don’t think anyone predicted it would the warmest December since 1939 in southern British Columbia.

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vancouverdec

pentictondec

A little further north in the central part of the province, it was warm, but certainly not close to the warmest in the past 80 years. Here is what the December climate record looks like for Tatalyoko Lake.

tatlayokolake

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Top 10 BC Weather Stories of 2018

bc-stormReading through the top 10 Canadian weather stories of 2018, I can’t help but notice how much text there is with no graphs to make it interesting.

To combat this idiocy, I’ve made my own top 10 list, with more focus on BC weather-related events. In addition, I’ve posted by order of occurrence and thus leave it up to you to decide how they should be ranked.

ONE: Record amounts of snow in February in the BC interior.

February was by far the snowiest and wettest on record in much of the southern and central interior including the likes of Kamloops and Williams Lake.

WLPrecipitation

TWO: More snow and precipitation records in March.

February and March are normally the driest months of the year in the BC interior, but in 2018 they were some of the wettest. March 22nd was the rainiest March day EVER in Penticton (29.6 mm) and Summerland (33.8mm). In Fact, just that one day was more precipitation than these cities normally get in the entire month!

Back in 1932 there was one day slightly wetter than this, but that mostly fell as snow, so 2018 was the rainiest March day on record. Both places ended up with more than 200% of normal.

In terms of snowfall, 22.8 cm fell in Penticton, tieing it with 1984 as the snowiest March ever.

Here is the precipitation graph for Summerland.

summerlandprecipitation

THREE: Massive snowpack in the Okanagan.

As the rain and snow piled up in the Okanagan Valley during the normally dry months, the snowpack in the mountains reached record levels by April.

missioncreek19

bcsnowpackapril1

FOUR: Major Flooding on the rivers with 1 in 100 to 1 in 500 flood events recorded on some rivers.

In May, many rivers throughout the interior of BC experienced record-setting flooding. From the Granby in Grand Forks to the Coldstream Creek in Coldstream, high temperatures and rain caused significant flooding. Here is the graph for peak flows on Coldstream Creek.

coldstreamcreek

While these rivers around the Okanagan were bad, the worst hit river was the Blackwater (AKA West Road River) that flows east until it hits the Fraser north of Quesnel. Not only did this area experience a high snowpack in combination with hot temperatures in early May, but the largest fire the province has ever see burned a significant portion of the drainage basin in 2017. With over 450,000 hectares (over 1,000,000 acres) burned by the Plateau Fire, there was a lack of live trees to suck up moisture in the spring.

The water rose so quickly and poured into the Fraser River at such a rapid pace that the volume of water at Quesnel was higher than it was 250 km down river in early May.

The community of Nazko in the Blackwater barely escaped the fires of 2017, but the floods of 2018 were a different story. There was no escaping that one…

nazko3

blackwaterNazkoRiver2

On a side note, the flooding continued into June as heavy rains hit the Peace Region, washing out highway 97 south of Chetwynd.

floodingpeace

FIVE: Victoria gets no precipitation in July. 

The weather changed in a hurry from rain to drought. Going an entire month without precipitation is extremely rare in Canada, but Victoria, BC has a surprising advantage: it’s the driest city in Canada in July on average. Records stretch back to 1899 and show 2018 is the fifth time (and first since 1958) that the BC capital city has managed to go the entire month without rain.

victoria

Six: Largest Wildfire season on record

As if the record-setting season of 2017 wasn’t bad enough, 2018 did the unthinkable by topping that one with even more area burned!

The areas most impacted were the dry plateau areas west of Prince George and the northern part of the province near the Yukon border. The large Alkali Lake burned 56 structures, including 27 homes in the small 300 person community of Telegraph Creek.

Much of the rest of the province faced evacuations throughout the summer including the central area around Burns Lake, the south around Keremeos and the northernmost community of Lower Post.

WORSE

SEVEN: Devastating smoke. 

The smoke was brutal, and even worse than 2017. The air quality health index (AQHI) that scales from 1 to 10+ was often well in excess of 10. If you recall the headlines from the previous summer, on one smoky day in 2017 the AQHI in Kamloops hit a staggering 49 on the AQHI! But communities along the highway 16 corridor west of Prince George shattered that number during the peak of the 2018 fire season.

Burns Lake was surrounded by fires, plus it sat in the path of the largest fires of the summer in Tweedsmuir Park, and this caused the fine particulate matter to peak at 1695 ppm, translating into an AQHI of 123!

firesmoke

EIGHT: Extreme heat hits western Canada.

On August 10th many places in southern BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan set all-time records. The number of stations climbing beyond 40°C/104°F hadn’t occurred like this in Canada since the 1930s.

Despite weather records in Calgary stretching back to the 1880s,  a new all-time record of 36.4°C was set. Calgary is at 3600ft elevation, so it doesn’t get as hot as areas east or west into BC. Still, many places near Calgary’s elevation did climb above 40°C. in fact, 50 places in western Canada hit that benchmark. A typical year will see two or three in Canada and none in Alberta. It’s been a decade since Alberta has recorded 40°C, and yet, August 10th, 2018 saw 26 weather stations meet that mark.

The five hottest places in the country were in Saskatchewan with Moosejaw leading the way at 42.3°C. Regina, the capital city, was 41.1°C.

In BC, both Trail and Ashcroft hit 41°C and Kamloops eked out a new all-time record at 40.8°C, but far more impressive record was Cranbrook which climbed up to 40.5°C –absolutely shattered the old record from 1941. Cranbrook sits at well over 3,000 feet above sea level.

cranbrook

NINE: Repeated washouts strike around Ashcroft and Cache Creek.

The Ashcroft and Cache Creek area is normally the driest area in Canada south of the high arctic, but in 2018 this was the only place in the province to receive significant precipitation in the summer. While the thunderstorm rains missed everyone else, they unleashed several torrential downpours on the Cache Creek area in July, August, and September.

This was exacerbated because the Elephant Hill wildfire from 2017 burned all the vegetation above the highways. The result was repeated mudslides on highways 97, 1, and 99 around Cache Creek. In one tragic event on highway 99, someone was killed by the slide.

mudslide

marble-canyon-2

TEN: Record cold hits BC in September.

In late August, the temperature took a nosedive throughout BC. The severity of this cold snap is highlighted by the amazing record set on September 12th in Chetwynd.  The previous record cold daytime temperature for September 12th was 8.9 degrees Celsius, and yet, on this day in 2018 the warmest temperature climbed to that day was 0 °C. This was the coldest September day ever recorded in the month of September in this Peace Region town, and it occurred in the first half of the month!

chetwynd

Other interesting stories:

October had cold and snow on both ends of the country. Record amounts of snow on the ground in BC (places like Sparwood) and record cold in Newfoundland in October and November. Wabush Lake, NL set the all-time monthly record cold for the province in October and then came close to another monthly record in November.

November was very warm in BC by contrast. Both Puntzi Mountain and Hope recorded their warmest nights ever for the month. Meanwhile, it was wet with Quesnel and Blue River recording their wettest Novembers on record.

December was met with extremely high winds that knocked out power to over 200,000 people.  Several weather stations setting new monthly wind speed records, namely in the Georgia Strait. The winds hit at high tide, which caused a lot of damage to coastal infrastructure including the 100-year-old pier in White Rock.

pier

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